Posted tagged ‘Diana Barco’

Where From

April 25, 2016

Where From

There was a sloped curb,
concrete not stone,
that was my home.
Its lines were not blue
like the lines on a page,
but straight enough
in the warp of curb world.

It gathered in its grooves and on
its lap, the wilt of cherry blossom,
and, in fall, the slug
of leaf pelt.

It held the backs of my legs,
when lonely, and the slap
of bare feet, when charged,
and when it rained, a small barge
of blossom or leaf might float
in its shallow, lit by the light
that breaks through low-
slung clouds,
like that light that shines
from the planes of stained cheeks
or the angles of bangs
pushed back–  It was that
kind of place.


draft poem for some day in April, for the Real Toads prompt by the wonderful Susie Clevenger to write of where one comes from.  I’m probably late returning comments; will do so soon.  Pic is by Diana Barco from my book of poems, Going on Somewhere (though this a new poem written for the prompt.)  


June 29, 2013
By Diana Barco (From "Going on Somewhere")

Drawing By Diana Barco (From “Going on Somewhere”)


You know, a brain is not nearly so large
as what it holds, the lodgings of joy and sorrow,
exhilaration and despair, jammed tenements, walls thin
as a hair’s breadth, everyone pounding
against the noise–

I don’t know much
about the addresses–whether ecstasy holes up at 413 South Cortex,
and grief, 414, to the front–
only that the brain passing through experience
sometimes derails, its trains of thought caught
in synaptic whiplash, its emotional impulses shorting
sparks, catapulting blow-outs and when the
tracks get swarmed, new routes
are formed, and that old byway
that climbed through spacious fields
where long-stemmed grass was starsprayed
with pale fleurettes and the deep red mouths of poppies laughed
as big as Jupiter, and the sun shone gold,
and you, as warm, held me,
our bared ribs twined
like clasped hands, swerves suddenly
into changed lands, fixes on a switchbacked
track, no going back and though we still hold on, up slides
down and gathered gold, outweighing
balances, seesaws the scale, and here cut flowers mound
to memorialize the missing, those who are no more are known never
to return, and ecstasy–
though I will have just passed through
her door—now pushes me
out her window, and despair alone extends
a sharp-spined net, offers me
a floor to sleep on, though I don’t sleep,
only wait till I can catch my breath
and the next train home.

Here’s a poem for With Real Toads, Fireblossom’s Friday, to write something about heartbreaking loss.    I am also posting it for dVerse Poets Pub open link night. 

I hesitate to post a poem of this kind for fear it will be deemed autobiographical by readers.  All I can say is that poets are poets — we write about all kinds of human experience, and poetry, by its use of distillation and metaphor, tends to make that experience seem hyper-dramatic and perhaps more personally intense than it may be.

The drawing above is by a dear friend, Diana Barco, who illustrated my book of poetry “Going on Somewhere.”  (This is a new poem, written today and not in the book, though I do urge you to check out the book! As well as my other books, Nose Dive –a humorous mystery, and 1 Mississippi, a counting book for those who like elephants.)

“Firefly Jar” Fragment(ed)

September 16, 2012

Drawing of Firefly Jar by Diana Barco

Firefly (Fragmented)

As a child, I was told that I was a star,
whose brilliance would light up the world like a jar
filled with fireflies.  In the place I grew up,
we’d crouch in dark grass, catching them in the cup
of a hand that quickly transformed into heart,
a roseate, luminescent, star part.
From palm, we would pour them into our glass,
so we could catch more, faster than fast….

Now, when I think back to that life as a star,
I see less of the firefly, more of the jar,
the air holes on top we made with a pick
used to pry nuts from shells, a sharp metal stick.
It tore holes that were cutting, jagged beneath,
and could easily pierce an insect’s bright sheath.
I think of those holes, the sharp underside
that ceilinged that glow, that unreasoning pride.


I am posting above which is a fragment of another poem for Kerry O’Connor’s With Real Toads Challenge, to post a poetic fragment – the type of language one might save in a firefly jar.  I’m not sure this fits the bill as it really is part of an already written poem – on the other hand, it deals very directly with firefly jars! 

The full poem can be found here, and is in my book, Going on Somewhere, by Karin Gustafson, illustrated by the incomparable Diana Barco.  I actually think the shortened version, posted today is better than the full poem.  (I’ve never felt completely happy with the full version as it seemed awfully bathic and more than a little self-pitying.)  Another great firefly jar drawing by Diana Barco can be seen here.

I urge you to check out all the wonderful poetry at With Real Toads.


May 15, 2012

Side (drawing by Diana Barco)


All day I’ve seen your side
in my mind, the smooth slopes
of rib, hip, limb, like
the banks of a river.
All day I’ve strained
towards these banks
with an overflow of self,
that wash of discontent,
too quick, too fretful, to find anything
but what’s next and next and next.
All day I’ve longed to stretch out by some cove
in your warm torso–
you’re so sound in sleep–
to slide between joint, bone, flesh,
to subside.


Here’s a poem just for today, which is a bit of a tired day.  It’s not the one I’m posting for dVerse Open Link Night – I opted for funny for the Open Link – Gauguin’s Stomach Grumbles, as I think people can always use a laugh.

The above, Side, has been slightly revised from my book of poems Going on Somewhere.  The book/poem by Karin Gustafson (me), the drawing is by Diana Barco; Diana also illustrated the book.

Borders – Here She Once was There

January 21, 2012

I am posting the poem below (a sonnet) for a dVerse Poets Pub poetics prompt to write about borders.   I thought of posting a more more risque, i.e. erotic poem, as this would somehow represent crossing a sort of personal online- publishing border,  But the fact is I kind of like the poem below, though it is not rique or erotic.  The drawing above, by Diana Barco, is from Going on Somewhere.

East Indian Trains in the Catskills
(For Jeannie Hutchins)

As lilacs cast their fragrance on wet grass,
she thinks of trains and dust, the smell of hot spiced chai,
maroon banquettes, babbled cries en masse—
muffled by shutters echoed Hindi words for buy,
the soles of porters’ shoes so flat and white and pointed,
her own were thick, protection sewn by Clarks,
the baseline of what made her feel anointed—
when her hand waved at the window, it left sparks.
She sparkled just for coming from the West
(with cash, pale eyes, and shockingly blonde hair).
But now she feels a different specialness:
no matter where she is, she once was there,
so that even on this Catskill-scented lawn,
mind resonates with Indian trains at dawn.

(Sort of) 1960’s “Block” Poem

January 17, 2012

"Block" (Poem by Karin Gustafson, Image by Diana Barco, from GOING ON SOMEWHERE.)

I have been thinking about the 1960’s, perhaps because of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday yesterday, so here’s a (sort of) 60’s poem (though not about MLK Jr.)   The poem is also published in my book of poetry, Going on Somewhere.(Check it out!)  I am posting it here for the wonderful dVerse Poets Pub open link night.


Right-angled in the newer areas,
our curb was smooth, sloping into
a chenille of pebbled tar
that bubbled below our skate wheels,
grinding up to spine,
a gravelly shiatsu.
Bare knees as gravelly, the memory of
scrapes embedded in skin, we sat with them up
till the white truck jingling
fairy dust turned in, spreading both
joy and panic, then ran for

I had a working mom and so
had funds enough for a drumstick, real
ice cream, but
hid the extra change deep in a pocket
where only straight fingers could
touch bottom, joining
Patty and Susie and Celeste, the
Catholic kids, with houses of siblings,
chores, and, hovering in their stories, nuns
(rulers at the ready)—
Patty the pretty, Susie the plain,
Celeste Celeste
Celeste, who, arms outstretched, could walk across
practically anything,
Celeste with the six brothers
who constantly rat-tat-tat-
played war—panting for the
popsicle of the day.  Sometimes it would
be root beer, that sweet-strange amber we hardly
dared lick; pink lemonade a purer thrill
in our specific honor.
The new houses started at the next
corner but no one sat in front of their
flatter spindly-treed lawns.
Did those houses even
have kids?

Later our side changed too.
Patty only came out to dry
her nails; Susie didn’t feel
like playing; and Celeste, Celeste,
Celeste’s father came back from
Vietnam, a different man.
Her brothers who’d crawled under bush,
up tree, their finger guns poised,
were not to be seen.
It was dark behind
their screens, words heard only as
vibration, things shaken.

The street still,
except on the rare
blue evening as fall fell,
when a boy we’d fought in
war, lorded over on skates,
stepped out from the curb, tossing
a football hand to hand.  Slowly we’d
all appear, copping moves scribbled
on his cupped palm.  Our feet
slapped hard against the
pavement, voices loud that, yes, we had
touched with two hands.

We played until car lights glared and our
bodies smelled of cold blown leaves.
But that would be it.
We would not come out again
for some time.

(If you’re interested in a more comic take on teenagerdom, please please please check out my comic novel NOSE DIVE!   It’s a lot of fun and very very cheap both in paperback and kindle.)

Taboo? (Maybe…) Poem (Yes!) (“A Woman Needing to Pee”)

October 15, 2011

Woman Needing To.... (image by Diana Barco)

The below poem is posted as part of dVerse Poets Pub, Saturday Poetics prompt, hosted today by Kellie Elmore. The prompt was for a poem that is provocative or deals with a subject that’s taboo.  As a (believe it or not!) slightly shy person, I find it very hard to post something both new and taboo, so am posting an older poem (one, that I’ve had time to get used to.)

A Woman Needing to Pee

A woman needing to pee,
she steps into the sea, knees
salt, a piercing balm, her
shaved legs grimace, gasp
cold, still she strolls thighward,
as far as she is able, needing to pee,
squats needing to hide it,
rubs water over her arms to hide it better,
acting out a woman too timid
to go out far, a woman
needing to cool herself.  But
she craves warmth and secretes it,
a secret warmth, wet-warming
all the sea.

Stretching tall
and cold now only where air
licks skin, she dives
into the afterglow,
a woman who swims.

A little background:  the poem was originally written as part of a “magnetic poetry exercise,” a kind of arbitrary but freeing exercise.  It can be found in my first book of poetry, Going on Somewhere, poems by Karin Gustafson, pictures by Diana Barco, cover by Jason Martin.  Check it out!

(PS – the new header above is from the cover of Going on Somewhere,  by Jason Martin.)